Rachel, geez, I have read 38weeks. I think several others in this thread also thought term meant 38 to 42 weeks. No need to attack.
Obnurse -- actually, what I meant was that the cost of stopping preterm labor at 36 weeks can be more expensive than the cost of delivering a 36-weeker. Meaning, most 36 weekers will leave the hospital with their mamas or maybe a day later, requiring no additional cost than a full term baby. Many have no NICU stay at all (of course some do, as you mentioned - but then again, so do some 40 weekers). A terbutaline pump isn't all that cheap, nor is 24/7 uterine contraction monitoring, or nurse home visits to a mother on bedrest, and neither is the lost income (if working) from having to stay in bed all day insignificant. Now, if that mom were admitted to antepartum for a few days or a week (or, 4 weeks! to get her to 40 weeks) with mag drip, etc etc etc. that would almost certainly be much more expensive (again, on average) than any cost associated with extra care for a 36 weeker. Why? Because 36 weekers usually do well, especially long term. But many of them are just not quite fully "cooked", kwim?, and that brings a lot of struggles that may not cost much, but are none the less significant to those of us wanting to exclusively breastfeed from the get-go, for example.
OF COURSE a mama on terb at 26 weeks is cheaper than delivering that 26 weeker. What I meant, is there is absolutely a financial incentive to deliver a slightly preterm baby (35-36 weeks, say), and moreover, that most OBs don't give one little thought to the impact of doing so on things like nursing or mother/child bond -- such as I've mentioned before. They're thinking, "will the baby breathe on its own?" and so on, not "Will the baby be awake enough to demand feed?" or "Will the baby nurse effectively enough to increase supply and grow well?" or "What is the impact on the mother and the family and the 18 month-old sibling of another entire month spent in the newborn phase?"
I certainly didn't mean to "slam" the obstetrical profession, and hope you didn't take offense to that. I just wanted to point out that rarely have I seen an OB concerned about some of these "softer" things, and if money were no object, it could be a good idea to delay that labor a couple of weeks in some situations.